Disclaimer: I’m no expert on this. I’m just thinking in type, and my thoughts represent the narrow world view of a short, curly haired girl who likes dogs and doesn’t like (I can’t think of anything I don’t like right now) erm, licorice.
Relationships are hard. And I don’t mean just romantic ones. All relationships are hard. Friends, parents, extended family, neighbors, bosses. Whenever you interact with someone over an extended period of time, it takes a lot of hard work and careful management to keep things good.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because my parents came to visit. And I’m not saying it was hard having them around; it wasn’t, they’re some of the easiest and most fun people on the planet, and our visit was absolutely fantastic. But the fact that the grand majority of upkeep in our relationship has been regulated to a couple weekends a year when they visit (because of distance) made me realize how quickly relationships can change.
Before they visited, I was on the phone with my mom gushing about how excited I was for the upcoming weekend, when she half jokingly said, “What if it isn’t as great as you expect it to be? What if we’re disappointing?” Which is a moot point really, because they’re so wonderful that it’d be impossible to disappoint. But it did make me think.
She was right–what if something had happened, an argument or some traumatic experience, that made the weekend less than all I had expected it to be? Something that left a bad taste in our mouths? The relationship would’ve shifted a little. And not permanently, since we’re all reasonable, rationale human beings, and the foundation of our relationship goes so deep that I know it’ll always exist in some happy form or another, but that’s my point: relationships are always changing. And that’s hard sometimes.
Think about someone you interact with on a daily basis with, especially someone you don’t have a long history with. You may go through phases. With new relationships, I’ve noticed a pattern: a period where you’re both getting to know each other and so trying really hard, which is a little awkward (I get super awkward during this period). And then the glorious honeymoon phase, where everything about them seems wonderful. And then the realization that they are human and have faults, and things are rocky for a little bit. And then the strengthening of the initial friendship when you forgive each other and get even closer, because you know your relationship can withstand disagreements. Or don’t, and then go your separate ways.
The phases are less apparent with established relationships, but they happen too. You disagree about something, and for a few weeks are cranky with each other. You both get competitive about something, and for a spell you see them in a new light as they are suddenly a competitor as well as a friend. You say the right thing during a hard time, and for a period you both think of each other with incredible warmth and affection. One of you finds a partner, and the other feels left out.
You get my point.
Relationships are constantly shifting, because we’re constantly shifting. And sometimes that’s terrifying, especially when it comes to people we value. We want things to be good all the time, and so having a bad phase can feel like we’re sliding off a cliff.
I know with me, when things suddenly turn sour, I sometimes want to throw my hands up and say “forget it.” Usually that happens when I’ve done something I’m ashamed of or embarrassed about, or more rarely, when they’ve done something to hurt me. Dealing with it feels like more effort than it’s worth, and you find yourself thinking about whether or not you really need the person in your life.
And you may not. In some circumstances, it might be healthier for all parties involved if you nix the relationship. But I think in the grand majority of cases, it’s worth sticking it out. Because regardless of how hard relationships are, they are the things that color our lives. There’s no such thing as a perfect relationship, because there’s no such thing as a perfect person. Instead of waiting for perfection, we can turn our eyes to ourselves, and recognize the things we do and don’t do to make other people’s lives easier. We can work hard at being good neighbors, good friends, good bosses, good mothers and fathers and children. And doing that makes us feel good, too.
This post doesn’t really have a point–it’s just one of those intangible little things I’ve noticed about life but have never heard spoken out loud. Sometimes it’s nice to say it, and have it be recognized that other people experience it too. And I guess the message that we need to love people for their imperfections as much as their perfections isn’t a bad one to go along with it, even if it is a bit cliche. Jordan (my font of wisdom) once told me that people are going to do what they want to do, and if we just let them do it without taking everything personally, the whole world feels friendlier. I’ve thought over that a million times since he said it, and every time it reminds me to take a step back and just let people be people.